A short account of the life of Piotr Siuda, Novocherkassk striker and later anarcho-syndicalist.
Pyotr Siuda was born on Rostov-on-Don on December 7th 1937. He was the son of the Bolshevik Piotr Ilyich Siuda, who was arrested in the same month and died under torture a year later. His mother Marfa was arrested in 1943 and served 7 years in the camps. Piotr was brought up in an orphanage, only to be re-united with his mother on her release.
After serving in the army, Piotr wandered from place to place and had many different jobs. In the early 1960s he came to Novocherkassk, where his mother and his brothers lived, and got a job in the Electric Locomotive Plant.
He took an active role in the strike in Novocherkassk from June 1st-June 3rd 1962 (see https://libcom.org/library/1962-novocherkassk-tragedy). He addressed the workers from a flat top truck, urging organisation and the sending of delegates to other factories and for a demonstration the next day. That night he was arrested, and so did not witness the mass shooting of strikers.
He was sentenced on September 10th that year to 12 years , and was sent to the Komi camp. However, after Kruschev’s removal, imprisoned Novocherkassk workers began to be released early, though he himself was not released until 1966, one of the last to be released, thanks to the efforts of his mother. His case was reviewed and reduced to the time already served.
He returned to Novocherkassk and took up work again at the locomotive plant. He graduated from technical school and became a designer at the Netemash plant.
He began to issue open letters in which he criticised aspects of Soviet society. However he regarded himself as a “pure Bolshevik” and believed that the bureaucracy and the Party had betrayed the revolution. In 1979 he released an open letter condemning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. This letter was sent to the principal members of the Soviet government. The local party was contacted and instructed to deal with him. He was assaulted outside his flat and repeatedly kicked in the head. Only the actions of his wife Emma save his life. This resulted in him losing his job. For a long period he was unemployed.
Piotr had begun collecting large amounts o material about the Novocherkassk strike and massacre.
In 1988 he changed his political orientation, joining the political and historical club Obschina (Community). He then joined the Confederation of Anarcho-Syndicalists (KAS). He occasionally reproached his new comrades for their vehement hatred of Bolshevism, saying that there had been some honest people among the Bolsheviks. The material he had collected on Novocherkassk was published in four issues of Obschina, the magazine of the eponymous club from June 1988.This proved to be a bombshell as the authorities had kept the Noocherkassk massacre well-hidden for many years.
When public political activity became possible again in that year, Piotr and Emma threw themselves into agitation, sending out hundreds of letters and articles.
On the night of May 5th, 1990, he was discovered in the street near his home with severe head injuries. He died in the ambulance. His comrades claimed that he had discovered the burial place of the slaughtered strikers. The briecase he had been carrying with many documents on the events went missing.
As Alexander Shubin wrote:”Piotr Siuda was always far from the establishment. He was a real representative of the people and he never strived for power. He could have easily become a deputy but he became an anarcho-syndicalist instead. Anarcho-syndicalism suited Piotr's character. He was uncompromising and fearless. He did not fight for power but for the advancement of ideas. His primary ideal was the liberation of the workers. But he did not believe in this liberation at the expense of others. When one of the many Marxist-Leninist "workers" groups proposed that he fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat, they were met with harsh words of criticism. Any dictatorship, he felt, was a new road to slavery. For Siuda anarchism was more than a passing fashion - it was the crowning jewel of ideological development.”
Note: Tariq Ali in his book Revolution From Above talks about meeting with Siuda and attempting to persuade him to join the Communist Party and to support Gorbachev! This speaks volumes about Ali’s accommodation to the “liberalising“ wing of the Soviet bureaucracy, in particular Yeltsin!!
I recall first learning about
I recall first learning about his death from both the IWA and the "Free Interprofessional Association of Workers" (SMOT) in Moscow. We may have also done a short obit in "ideas & action" as well.